February 22, 2024

Team Zimbabwe in Tokyo 2021

Harare Magazine is delighted to share these stories of our fine athletes who proudly represented Zimbabwe in the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Their diligent, tireless and committed training has given these Olympians an experience of a lifetime. These exceptional stars are outstanding ambassadors for our beautiful country who did us so proud in the Games of the Olympiad. We salute you!

Preparation for the games was a lengthy process indeed, considering the delays of the pandemic. The Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) worked long and hard to ensure that our nation was able to participate and compete in Tokyo. The ZOC is committed to their beliefs that the spirit of the Olympics is founded on “friendship, solidarity and fair play.” I think the entire team and committee would say it was an experience that was definitely worth waiting for.  

ZOC is now looking ahead and making preparations for Paris 2024 and LA 2028 with great excitement.

Some of the athletes and coaches sat down with Harare Magazine and told us about their personal experiences and their incredible journeys.

Donata Katai – Swimming Athlete

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be an Olympian. 

I qualified for the Olympics by universal slot. Zimbabwe was awarded two: one for the boys and one for the girls and I was chosen to be the representative for the girls.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?

It was an honour and a privilege. I think this being the smallest team ever sent, made it that more special. Representing Zimbabwe at the Olympics was a childhood dream of mine, and for it to actually happen, was as though I was living in a dream.

3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

Being one of the chosen flag bearers and knowing I would be on television in front of millions was definitely frightening! The atmosphere in the tunnel was great (all the teams were singing war cries and cheering) so as we walked out, it was a rush of nerves and excitement but is was also an amazing feeling to be in the midst of such great athletes.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

On our first day in the village, we entered the dining hall at the same time as the American swimming team (we basically bumped into them) and I was so shocked I could barely speak or even talk.

Scott Vincent – Golf Athlete

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be an Olympian. 

I qualified to compete in the Olympics based on my world ranking from the professional events I compete in year-round. There were 60 golfers total who competed.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
Representing Zimbabwe is one of the greatest honours of my life. My dream is to use my sport to inspire other Zimbabweans to pursue their dreams and so that I can give back to the people of Zimbabwe. 
3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

The feeling of walking in the opening ceremony was unlike any other. To walk alongside the best athletes in the world is so humbling. Most of all it reminded me of how grateful I was to be a part of the Olympics.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

We had a little travel mishap on our way. We landed in LAX and waited in the lounge but didn’t realize we were flying out of a different terminal, so we had to run to our connecting flight, barely making it!

Ngoni Makusha – Athletics Athlete

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be an Olympian. 

I was born in Chitungwiza on the 29th of June 1994. I did my primary school at Saint Aidan’s, where I started running from the 1st grade. I just knew I was quick, as I was beating the other guys. From then on, I started representing my school in different competitions and running at the National Championships representing Harare Province. In high school, I focused more on rugby, but when I finished at Harare High School, I really thought of finding a track and field club in 2015. Then I met my coach, David Tinago, and he took me in. I got my first call-up to represent the country in 2016. Since then, I have been representing the country in several competitions like the Southern Region Championships, African Senior Championships, African Games, World Relays and the Olympics. Being an Olympian was always my dream and I’m really glad I managed to reach that goal and achieve my dream. It was something I worked hard for since 2017 and I was delighted to get a universal slot. 

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
Being on the Zim Team for the Olympics is such a great honour for me. It’s every athlete’s dream. To be on the team is just incredibly special and to be able to represent your country is a feeling that just never gets old. I always feel goose bumps when I’m on the start line. 
3. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

I was really happy to see one of my idols, Yohan Blake, and had a little chat and a picture with him, which was great. And there was this mishap when I went to the training track at the wrong time and the officials were like, “You are the only one who didn’t get the memo, hahaha!” 

Peter Purcell-Gilpin – Rowing Athlete

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be an Olympian. 

I’ve been training and competing for Zimbabwe on the international scene since 2011 and it’s always been a goal of mine to race at the Olympics one day. It was never a guarantee and there have been ups and downs along the way. In 2019, I qualified the boat for Zimbabwe at the African Continental Olympic Qualification Regatta held in Tunisia, where I came second. This guaranteed that Zimbabwe would have someone at the Olympics. However, I would still have to race again later as the selection for the boat opened up again to the athletes from Zimbabwe allowing them to challenge for the Olympic spot. With the Olympics being postponed for a year, our final trails took place in April 2021; I won all the races, followed by Andrew Peebles, the Olympian from 2016, and Stephen Cox, my previous doubles partner. This confirmed my selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe will always be my home so having the opportunity to be a part of the team representing our nation at the most prestigious sporting event in the world was an incredible honour and a privilege. It’s a memory that I will cherish till the day I die.

3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

Walking into the stadium was an indescribable feeling. It’s something that I have dreamt about since I was a child. Even without the crowds and spectators that you would normally see on TV, it was a very special and humbling moment for me. Bearing the flag as well was more than I could ever have hoped for. It was just simply amazing.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

It’s hard to narrow down a single moment for me at the Olympics. I loved every minute of it.  Every race was not only incredibly challenging, but also incredibly rewarding. Despite being one of the smallest teams there, there were a lot of the bigger teams, and even some legends of the sport, who kept coming to hang out with us because they just loved the ethos and mind-set that we brought to the event. So that was unexpected and very special. 

I have raced more times than I can remember, but lining up on the start line at the Olympics was a feeling I will never forget: knowing that you’ve done absolutely everything you can to give yourself the best shot. Coming down the track, it is almost as if the rest of the world disappears and you are completely alive, every cell in your body burning with a fierce intensity and yet, in that moment, you are completely free. It’s a special thing to be able to give absolutely everything you have in the pursuit of excellence, to push your body to the absolute limit over and over again and when it’s all over, to know that you did the best you could and can therefore be happy with the outcome, no matter the final ranking.

Fredreck Ndlovu – CDM Team Zimbabwe

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I was appointed by ZOC to be the CDM Team Zimbabwe. I am currently the ZOC 1st VP and also the VP for the Confederation of African Volleyball and a Board Member for ZVA, ZONE VI, CAVB and ZOC.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
This is one of the highest honours and responsibilities bestowed on me in sport to lead the nation.

3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?
It was nerve wracking; it was like a dream just to imagine that the whole world is watching you. A dream come true.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?”

Sharing a light moment with the IOC President and our very own Olympian, Hon. Dr. Kirsty Coventry and having a photo shoot.

James Stephensen – Rowing Coach

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I rowed for Great Britain for many years and then competed for Great Britain in the triathlon as well. I have had the privilege of coaching some beginner rowers to becoming the best in the world. When Peter Purcell-Gilpin asked to come and train at the programme that I have set up in northwest Zambia, I welcomed him with open arms. We worked hard together for many months and I was proud to be part of his Olympic journey and to watch him succeed.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?

I was extremely proud to be part of Peter’s team and help him on his Olympic journey.

3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

Sad that there was no crowd. It brought home that if sport is reduced to just the competition, then it loses its allure. The excitement of the crowd helps us realise that sport is about the journey, the love, the manner in which you fight and the coming together of many nations in peace and gratitude – not just about the competition.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?”

The beds were made of cardboard. Peter spilt his water bottle next to the bed so it sunk down on one side – very funny!

Mufaro Chivonivoni – Golf Manager

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I attended the Olympics as an official as the golf team leader. We had been working behind the scenes for over two years on the administrative issues. As a sports code, we were extremely happy and proud that Scott Vincent had managed to qualify for the games. My role was to ensure that our athlete’s preparations and logistical arrangements run smoothly so that our athlete could perform at his best at the games.           

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
Representing one’s country in whatever capacity is always an honour and doing it at the biggest sporting event in the world is a special and memorable occasion. The amount of fellow Zimbabweans who contacted me during the Olympic period was overwhelming; friends I hadn’t spoken to in years were calling and passing messages of support for the whole of Team Zimbabwe. With all the support and attention received, it reminds you as an individual that being part of Team Zimbabwe in whatever capacity is a special privilege and that you need to fulfil your role to the best of your abilities. It was also interesting to get to understand the sports that the other Team Zimbabwe members were participating in. At the end of it all, I understood words and terminology used in other sports. Words like sculls, transition, etc. are now familiar.

3. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

The whole event was truly memorable and it’s difficult to point to just one moment, as the whole experience could easily be described as a moment. As a sports administrator and sports fan, it was exciting to be able to interact with the world’s top golfers and other athletes from different sporting codes. There are a lot of things I learned on how we can improve the way we handle different issues and the hope is that I can be able to share that knowledge and experience for the good of the country.

Abigail Mnikwa – Team Zimbabwe Physio

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I am a physiotherapist as my profession and I am part of the ZOC Medical Commission.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
To me, it was really a great honour because the Olympics is the biggest sporting arena you could ever go to. I’ve gone to other large sporting events, but nothing matches the Olympics. 


3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

It was actually surreal. It was surreal in the fact that this is an event I always watch on TV, and there I was participating in it! It was a beautiful moment and an absolute once-in-a lifetime feeling.

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

The one thing that really touched me about being in Japan is the humility of the people. I remember going to the physio department and talking to one of the physiotherapists there, only to find out that she’s the Dean of the largest Physiotherapy School in Japan. I was gobsmacked. The Japanese people are such humble people without heirs and graces. 

Lindsy Tudor-Cole – Swimming Coach

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I started swimming competitively when I was around 11 years old and always wanted to compete in the Olympics but never got there. I have always been determined to get there, so I stuck with the sport. My dad went to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 as a shootist and he inspired me; I always had my eye on Tokyo. I started at the bottom as a coach and worked my way up to the Youth Olympics and was then so thrilled to be selected for Tokyo.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?
I was born in Zimbabwe and have tried to leave a few times, but I have always been drawn back to this beautiful country. I’ve always been so proud to be Zimbabwean and to be part of this team was just such an honour and a dream come true. I really loved working with ZOC as well.
3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

It was definitely surreal. You have a long waiting period underground and then all of a sudden you’re out in the open. That was the only time I noticed there weren’t fans as the stadium was very empty. I kept pinching myself to make sure it was real! The build up and energy was incredible with all the teams dressed up, the flags were flying, music was playing and it was just the ultimate to be there and watch in person what I’ve watched on TV my whole life.
4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?” 

The first thing that comes to mind was when we were coming back from the opening ceremony on the bus. It was 1:00am and the Japanese people were still lining the streets, waving at us with their children of all ages and their dogs, just to see us drive past. They were there when we arrived and they stayed there until after midnight. It really touched me that they would wait so long just to see us. The Japanese people are the most polite and well-organised people. 

Memory Pakati – Team Zimbabwe Head of Finance

1. Please give a brief background and how you came to be part of Team Zimbabwe. I am the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee Head of Finance. I was appointed as the Administration Manager for Team Zimbabwe, and was in charge of all administrative issues to do with the team, before and during the team’s participation at the games. I was also the Assistant Covid Liaison Officer for the team.

2. What does it mean to you to be on Team Zimbabwe?

It’s a great honour and great privilege to be part of Team Zimbabwe and to represent my country at such a great sporting event. I was proud to ensure that I performed my task to the satisfaction of the whole team.

3. How did you feel walking into the stadium at the opening ceremony?

Just being able to attend the opening ceremony is an amazing experience. It was beautiful being there, only sad that spectators were not able to attend because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We missed their cheers. 

4. Please tell us about an “Olympic Moment?”

I was amazed by the cleanliness of Tokyo. Compared to other cities I have travelled so far, the cleanliness of the Japanese capital city is second to none. Apart from the sporting venues, all was just on point. 

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